Texas Transportation Institute Report, Congestion Worsening

Posted in Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 4:16 pm by wcnews

The TTI’s report (links here) appears to be a sober analysis of what most drivers already know, congestion is getting worse. There are a couple of good things just from the press release though.

“There is no ‘magic’ technology or solution on the horizon because there is no single cause of congestion,” noted study co-author Tim Lomax, a research engineer at TTI. “The good news is that there are multiple strategies involving traffic operations and public transit available right now that if applied together, can lessen this problem.”

The 2007 mobility report notes that congestion causes the average peak period traveler to spend an extra 38 hours of travel time and consume an additional 26 gallons of fuel, amounting to a cost of $710 per traveler. Along with expanding the estimates of the effect of congestion to all 437 U.S. urban areas, the study provides detailed information for 85 specific urban areas. The report also focuses on the problems presented by “irregular events”—crashes, stalled vehicles, work zones, weather problems and special events—that cause unreliable travel times and contribute significantly to the overall congestion problem. Worsening congestion, the study notes, is reflected in several ways:

  • Trips take longer
  • Congestion affects more of the day
  • Congestion affects weekend travel and rural areas
  • Congestion affects more personal trips and freight shipments
  • Trip travel times increasingly are unreliable


The report identifies multiple solutions to the congestion problem that, researchers say, must be used together to be effective. These include:

  • Get as much service as possible from existing infrastructure
  • Add road and transit system capacity in critical corridors
  • Relieve chokepoints
  • Change usage patterns
  • Provide choices
  • Diversify the development patterns
  • Keep expectations realistic

“Congestion is a far more complex problem than is apparent at first glance,” Lomax said. “The better the data we use to define the problem, the more successful we will be in addressing its root causes.”

There’s no mention of how to finance - toll roads or the gas tax - but from the press release they seem to be attempting to nudge us away from roads as the only option to fix our congestion problems. That’s one change we can all make try to make. In trying to come up with the best way to relieve congestion maybe the whole toll road issue will be swept aside. Oh well, one can dream.

Vote: Watts v. Noriega For DFT Endorsement

Posted in US Senate Race, Take Action, 2008 Primary, Democratic Events, Around The State at 12:11 pm by wcnews

I highly recommend reading the candidates responses to the questionnaire’s before voting.

DFT Announces Senate Endorsement Poll

John Cornyn has been on the wrong side of countless issues that are critical to Texans in general and DFT supporters in particular. Beyond that, well, he’s just an embarrassment. But we’re not telling you something you didn’t already know, right?

Democracy for Texas has never endorsed a candidate for public office. But this race is too important to the future of our state and our country not to put all of our resources behind the candidate we feel best represents our “socially progressive, fiscally responsible” philosophy.

Two candidates - State Representative Rick Noriega and Mikal Watts - are running to be the Democratic nominee to oppose Cornyn. Which one should get DFT’s support?


Both candidates submitted answers to a DFT Issues Questionnaire, linked below.

Rick Noriega’s Issues Questionnaire Response
Mikal Watts’s Issues Questionnaire Response

Please vote.

Last Week Cheryl Schneider Took Over As Director Of The WCRAS

Posted in Animal Shelter, Commentary, Williamson County at 10:34 am by wcnews

Story via News 8, New director takes over troubled animal shelter.

Cheryl Schneider has a big job ahead of her as the new shelter director for the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.

The shelter opened in April and already has had serious problems with animal overcrowding, staffing and other issues. Interim director Dana Boehm was arrested and charged with theft relating to her previous job at a Hutto clinic. The shelter is under two investigations for animal cruelty, and two families had their pets accidentally euthanized.

“That’s my biggest thing to have a good policy and procedure manual so that everybody works off the same page,” Schneider said.

The director’s position is both administrative and political, because she answers to the governing board made up of city leaders and county commissioners.

“I’m not really sure exactly how all that works at this point in time but I’m sure I’ll find out,” Schneider said.

Hmm…seems like somebody coming into a job with such political controversy surrounding the job would’ve been up on that before accepting it. And as far as everyone “work(ing) on the same page”, this doesn’t bode well (via Shelter Concerns).

One day the revised SOP is approved and the next day it’s not! On Monday, September 10 Williamson County Public Information Officer Connie Watson emailed me the “new operating procedures” Ethel Spence spoke of to the media. As you’ll remember the revised Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) contained language about animals going to research and changes to the 72-hour hold period, which has been shown to conflict with the County’s and cities’ ordinances.

I contacted Watson via email on Tuesday, September 11 with questions about the “Animals For Research” section. Later that day she emailed me stating that part of the SOP was not yet approved, but that “Ethel and Cheryl anticipated discussing it with the board for the future.” However, in a separate email I asked which SOP was being used, the one written by Melanie Sobel or the new one written by Ethel Spence. Watson replied to me via email on Friday, September 14 that the new SOP had not been approved. Why would someone in her position so freely send out an “unapproved” SOP? I guess when the public didn’t like what they heard it was easier to just say “Oh, it’s not approved YET”

The cities involved - Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander and Hutto - want this resolved soon, their patience is wearing thin. Mainly because this whole undertaking has become more costly, time consuming, and a nuisance. What was supposed to have been a solution has only caused more problems.

We wish Ms. Schneider well and hope she is the one with the skills that can turn the shelter into the solution it was meant to be. She can’t do it alone and will need, what up until now what has not been forthcoming, cooperation from the county.


Texas Blog Round Up (September 17, 2007)

Posted in Commentary, Around The State at 9:14 am by wcnews

It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Round-Up. This week’s round up is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex. As the TPA welcomed aboard a few new members this week, you may notice some new names and blogs.

Muse at Musings liveblogs Lap Dog Cornyn’s portion of Petraeus’ appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee this past week and notes that he slobbers all over himself praising the surge.

McBlogger at McBlogger goes to the CAMPO meeting on the Phase 2 toll roads and finds lies, damn lies and statistics as well as an Austin City Council Member who seems hell bent on ending his political career. Is resurrection possible? Sure… if you believe McCracken is the second coming. Spoiler alert: McBlogger doesn’t.

While on vacation, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs discovered quite a few similarities between the Texas Legislature and the Nevada State Assembly.

Good news brought by TXsharon at Bluedaze: Bush Economy Solves Obesity Problem!

Could Be True at South Texas Chisme notes that the Republican tactics of purging voter rolls, creating barriers to voting, and discouraging new voter registration are moving right along and could get serious in Bexar County.

After the demolition of yet another historic structure in Houston, Charles at Off the Kuff looks at what can be done to abet preservation efforts going forward.

Adam Silva of Three Wise Men, blogging for the UNT Democrats, provides a detailed analysis of competitive U.S. Senate races for 2008.

City life can be complicated-but it includes an awfully lot of conveniences that we take utterly for granted-as long as they work. In Houston, We Have a Problem, on Texas Kaos, The Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE) invites all of us to get a little taste, so to speak, of what it takes to keep the fourth largest city in the nation running.

WhosPlayin notes that some Republican Members of Congress just don’t know when to stop digging a hole in continuing to support a failed president.

Since 9/11, an increasingly strident message of xenophobia has seeped into both fringe and mainstream political movements. A new climate of exclusion has formed as a result of this country’s heightened anxiety against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Whether or not intended as such, new Texas Progressive Alliance member Xicno Pwr at ¡Para Justicia y Libertad! tells us we are in the midst of a growing culture of hate as the number of hate crimes in this country are on the rise.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the unintended consequences of the 2003 GOP redistricting scheme in Are Democrats Statewide Prospects Improving Because Of GOP Gerrymandering?

Refinish69, another recent addition to the TPA, at Doing My Part for the Left examines sex scandals and hypocrites in the Repugnant Party and Texas Stonewall Caucus.

Have Republicans moved in a “ringer” to challenge Chet Edwards in TX-CD 17? Vince addresses that in a post at Capitol Annex.

The Texas Clover Leaf (a new member of the Alliance) notes that Alan Keyes has entered the GOP race for President, but asks if he is actually the Republican’s version of Obama.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal tells us about the controversy surrounding the preservation of trees at the Trinity Trail in Ft. Worth.

John at Bay Area Houston tells us that Jared Woodfill, Chairman of he Harris County Republican Party, must think Hispanics are stupid with his recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle “Hispanics can feel right at home in the Texas GOP”.

Jack Cluth at The People’s Republic of Seabrook notes that it would seem that we’ve learned nothing from the 60s. Today, in allegedly-enlightened 21st century America, a man or woman can be fired from their job in 31 states for the simple fact of being a homosexual. Regardless of how you feel about the “lifestyle”, how can anyone who values liberty and freedom be OK with this…especially with Americans dying in Iraq to “protect and defend out freedom”?

Jaye at Winding Road in Urban Area addresses several things, including machine-gun-toting cops in a ‘brain dump,’ post, The Stream of Consciousness Just Overflowed the Toilet. (Please flush!)

Todd Hill (another new addition to the Texas Progressive Alliance) blogging at Burnt Orange Report tells us all about a North Texas Tribute to Speaker Jim Wright.

Matt at Stop Cornyn tells us how John Cornyn worked to disenfranchise minority voters while he was Attorney General.

Evan Leslie at Caucus Blog reviews the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’s deliberations over its potential endorsement of the Houston Independent School District bond proposal.

Don’t forget to check out other Texas Progressive Alliance blogs, too: BlueBloggin (new member!), The Agonist, Blue 19th (new member!), In The Pink Texas, Grassroots News U Can Use (new member!), The Caucus Blog (new member!), The Texas Blue (new member!), Casual Soap Box, Common Sense, Dos Centavos, Easter Lemming Liberal News, Feet To Fire, Marc’s Miscellany, Rhetoric & Rhythm, Three Wise Men, Truth Serum Blog, and Wyld Card.


Missing the OLD (Cold) War

Posted in Commissioners Court, T. Don Hutto, Commentary, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 1:26 am by wcnews

Guest Post by: MaryEllen Kersch

As one who grew up in fear of the total obliteration of the planet, I never thought I would say this, but I sort of miss the Cold War these days. Not the diving under solid objects during “fall-out drills” in school, or being on the alert for strange-looking airplanes potentially carrying real weapons of mass-destruction, -those were not fond childhood memories. However, in retrospect, The Cold War united the people of our country in a sense of who we were and what we stood for. The United States, during that era, certainly earned its position as the moral leader of the world. The big difference between us and the Commies was that we valued human dignity. We set the standards, worldwide, for the proper treatment of people under all circumstances; we spoke out against torture, oppression, starvation. We urged all nations to be, as we were, compassionate to those less fortunate than us and courageous against those who degraded our fellow humans. We practiced the golden rule. We did it because we knew it was right.

Here we are, six years after some lunatics, who still remain free, committed atrocious acts against us and we seem to have lost the moral compass that guided us so well. During the Cold War, we never would have put children in prisons. (We even agonized and apologized for our interment camps of WWII!) But that is precisely what we are doing now, under some convoluted grant of power in the name of, but having nothing to do with, Homeland Security.

For over a year now, our County Commissioners Court has acted as contractual “provider” in a corrupt contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known chillingly, appropriately, as ICE) for the administration of T Don Hutto “residential’ facility. (It’s located in Taylor, and people in Hutto resent the name, as well as the activity.) T Don Hutto was a founder of the firm that owns and operates this prison-pretending-to-be-a-residential-facility. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest -and hugely profitable- private operator of prisons in America, actually runs this shameful facility on a pass-through contract with the County. Under this arrangement, CCA gets 2.8 million tax dollars a month (approximately $84,000 a year for each tender little body they “detain”), and the County gets a dollar a day a body. (Curious that the County is even involved; ICE could contract directly with CCA since CCA owns the prison in the first place. But, as some legal experts say, with the County in the loop, the County very likely shares any legal exposure. And the County collects $12-$15 thousand a month from the Feds for going along.)

The human beings held at T Don Hutto are not criminals; they are charged with no crimes, nor are they suspected of being a threat to us, or our homeland security. Many of the children are actually citizens of this country. Many experts say, and several governmental agencies (including Congressional groups) urge, that people awaiting disposition of their applications for amnesty and/or immigration ought to be equipped with an electronic device and allowed to go with responsible family members or church groups pending a decision by our authorities. It would be considerably cheaper—and far more humane. There are such programs in a number of other communities. But maybe they didn’t have a vacant prison owned by a corporation that donated lots of campaign dollars to lots of elected officials.

So now, after 10 lawsuits and many months of wrangling, those children living in this “converted” prison in Taylor finally have the right to keep crayons and teddy bears with them in their cells.

In the former era, during the Cold War, this is the sort of dishonorable thing the Commies would have done. But not the United States of America.

Call your Commissioner. Write your Congressman. Tell them that the United States of America does NOT put children in prison. Period.


David Sirota’s First Syundicated Column

Posted in Good Stuff, Take Action, Commentary at 1:10 pm by wcnews

Fittingly the same week that the Media Matters report, Black and White and Re(a)d All Over, regarding the imbalances between “conservative” over “liberal” voices in newspapers across the country came out.

The results show that in paper after paper, state after state, and region after region, conservative syndicated columnists get more space than their progressive counterparts

So did David Sirota’s first syndicated column published today. He eviscerates TABOR and it’s unmet promises in Colorado, The Lesson Of The DMV.

When this ideological push inevitably starts in state legislatures this winter, just remember The Lesson of the DMV: Budget cuts and TABOR are code for long lines, traffic, endless waits for basic legal proceedings and all the other red tape inefficiencies that drag society down.

These silent, day-to-day consequences may go unrecorded by economic statistics and may be far away from the happy rhetoric of politicians and political activists. But they prove that slashing government services in the name of “taxpayer protection” does not result in lubricating a state’s economic engine — it ends up throwing sand in the gears.

EOW recommends reading Sirota, mentioning him to friends and family, and urging your local paper to print his column, you can contact them by going here or here. He also blogs at Sirotablog.

McClatchy: “Iraq War will drag on…at a cost of another 1,600 American dead and $13 billion a month”

Posted in The War, Had Enough Yet?, Around The Nation at 12:12 pm by wcnews

Excellent commentary from McClatchy, Bush still refuses to admit he was wrong. It’s not just about Bush it’s takes it to the Democrats too. A few excerpts below:

Well, now we’ve heard from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker and President George W. Bush, and it appears that the Surge has succeeded — succeeded in guaranteeing that the Iraq War will drag on for the last 16 months of the Bush presidency at a cost of another 1,600 American dead and $13 billion a month.

Extending the war, kicking that can down the road, was President Bush’s only strategic objective last January when he came up with the idea of escalating the number of American troops in Iraq from 130,000 to today’s 170,000. Put simply, the Decider wants to hand off the decision to pull the plug on his unwinnable war to someone else, anyone else.

Four and a half years after this president ordered the invasion of Iraq in a gross act of arrogance and ignorance based on faulty, bogus and politically twisted intelligence — and after repeatedly changing the rationales and objectives of the war as each has failed in turn — we’re going to continue this war because George W. Bush is incapable of admitting that he was wrong, wrong, wrong.


Every American commander in Iraq has stated the obvious from Day One: This war cannot be won militarily. It cannot be won by American troops. It cannot be won by wishful thinking. It can only be won by the Iraqis themselves, and their definition of victory is built on dreams of bloody revenge and the slaughter of innocents.

When our president talks of peace returning to the streets of Baghdad, he mistakes the silence of empty, abandoned homes and sectarian cleansing for progress. He confuses the segregation of Shia and Sunni, each in their own ghettos behind tall concrete walls, for progress. More than 3 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes and neighborhoods into exile, internal or external, and this he calls success.


The president announced that he was taking Gen. Petraeus’ advice and ordering the beginning of 10-month gradual drawdown of the extra 30,000 troops of the surge — a drawdown that everyone knew was inevitable simply because our Army and Marine Corps cannot sustain that level of troops in Iraq beyond next March.

On the schedule the president laid down this week, we’ll still have some 138,000 troops on the ground in Iraq next July, and 100,000 on January 20, 2009, when Bush’s successor will take office, and he made it clear that he hopes to have agreements in place to ensure an American military presence there for many years to come.

Will Bush get away with this? From all the evidence at hand, the answer, sadly, is yes. Only the Democrats in Congress stand in his way, and they have yet to find their spines, or a semblance of moral courage, or even a sufficient understanding of the Constitution and its clauses on war making and war-financing, to override The Decider.

It’s a long journey from now to January 20, 2009, and the blood of many Americans and even more Iraqis will flow freely and stain the hands of those who allow this insane war to continue at the behest of a stubborn, unseeing, unthinking man from Crawford, Texas.

The last part may be the saddest. I can’t understand why Democrats in Congress won’t use the powers given to them by our Founding Fathers to stop this already.

More On Kay’s Toll Pandering From the “Texas Observer”

Posted in Election 2008, US Senate Race, Privatization, Congress, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:51 am by wcnews

There’s more in the TO’s post about the the purported Toll Roadblock.

But what does the amendment say? I read it and I’m not so sure. It seems to allow exactly what it promises to prohibit, and it is written in the deliberately confusing, dependent-clause-rich prose of lawmaking. But, hey, we’ll have to trust our senators on this one.

The end about Sen. Cornyn’s lame attempt at trying to take some credit, but not too much.

Cornyn is certainly interested in the anti-toll vote, but his office seemed a little late in trumpeting his involvement in the amendment (so Hutchison had the lead to herself).

Perhaps Cornyn is hesitant to embrace the anti-toll constituency because of its distrust of government and its dislike of the current GOP leadership in Texas, which seems bent on privatizing public roads willy-nilly. Or maybe it’s because the big money in GOP politics in Texas favors toll roads (and the TTC). A cursory search of the Federal Election Commission website found contributions for Cornyn in the last year of more than $10,000 from Williams Brothers Construction, $7,000 from Dannebaum Engineering, and $15,000 from people associated with Zachry Construction. We are sure that’s just a drop in the bucket.

Cornyn’s not going to have Kinky and Carol “What’s Her Name” in this race to nullify the anti-toll vote.

Cornyn, Bush And The Surge

Posted in The War, US Senate Race, Commentary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 11:35 am by wcnews

Sen. John Cornyn was at Camp Mabry in Austin yesterday. It’s the headquarters for Texas’ National Guard. Here’s what he said, via the Starlegram.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday that he supports the planned drawdown of American troops from Iraq, but he acknowledged that those soldiers might have to return if the conflict descends into further chaos.

“I hope and pray that we won’t be backsliding in that security situation,” Cornyn said during a visit to a National Guard installation in Austin. “But I think the men and women of the military understand that when their nation needs them, it needs them. … I think we are going to have to react to whatever the threats are.”

It’s interesting that now Cornyn is admitting that Iraq is in chaos. And of course our military will sacrifice for our country, that’s a given.

Here’s what the two Democrats vying to challenge him had to say:

The two Democrats vying to challenge Cornyn next year disputed the assertion that Iraq is headed in the right direction.

“It’s time to lead from the front and not hide behind the administration or hide behind photo opportunities with the best and bravest of the United States armed forces,” said state Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston, who is expected to seek the nomination in the March 4 Democratic primary.

“It’s time now to bring our men and women home.”

San Antonio lawyer Mikal Watts, who is also expected to seek the Democratic nomination, said the strategy envisioned by Bush and endorsed by Cornyn is misguided.

“John Cornyn is willing to rubber-stamp this administration’s aimless policies that would keep our troops hunkered down in Iraq for years to come. I’m not,” Watts said.

“We need a smart strategy for immediately ending our involvement in Iraq’s civil war and repairing our strategic alliances around the world so that our grandchildren won’t have to go back.”

It’s hard to see how anyone, not in a Bush fog, can argue that Iraq isn’t in chaos. Even the New WH Report Contradicts Bush’s Claim That Troop Drawdown Is Result Of ‘Success’ In Iraq. Cornyn then goes on to praise Bush for his stubbornness despite reality.

Cornyn said Bush should be credited for pursuing the course that he believes is in the nation’s best interests despite waning support for the war.

“He’s not going to be motivated by public opinion polls, but rather by what’s (what he believes) is in the national security interest of the United States,” he said.

The changes to the above paragraph was made by EOW to better reflect what our president is doing with Iraq. What the president believes and what needs to be done are two completely different things. Staying in Iraq to stroke the president’s ego is no longer an option Senator.

This Is Funny

Posted in Animal Shelter, Williamson County at 9:45 am by wcnews

Scott McDonald of the HCN wrote a disastrous column regarding the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter and pit bulls, One pressing county issue. A couple of excerpts below.

When a commercial comes on TV that I don’t like, I just push a button on my remote to make it disappear. I wish there was something similar that could be done about citizens who speak at council meetings regarding the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. I wish I could just press a mute button.

Those who are fanatical about protecting animals at our humane societies, shelters and rescue organizations have spoken loud and clear. And there’s one thing they should know by now: We just can’t push a button and make things that are wrong automatically go right.


There seems to be an abundance of pit bulls in the shelter. My question is why? These animals, for the most part, are bred to kill other dogs. We run a Pet of the Week every Friday in our paper, and about one-fourth of the dogs we’ve run have been pit bulls. That means a few of these vicious dogs are adoptable. That means every pit bull doesn’t get euthanized and the shelter tries to find those adoptable ones a home. But what gets me is how these dogs are called “sweet and loving” while they look like the spawn of Satan.

Although the county needs more opinion pieces holding it accountable and less of them giving them a pass, give the HCN, and McDonald some credit. After the HCN redesigned it’s website they have started allowing comments to it’s opinion pieces, and McDonald says he’s approved all the comments he’s received on this column. The comments are the funny part. They are the best part. Of course one of Williamson County’s finest had to show up:

I really wish all these “animal lovers” would get lost or “abused” themselves.

Just click on the link above and scroll to the bottom to begin reading them. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, effect this instant response will have on his column.

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